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Blogger Showdown #9: Clever Dude vs. Frugal Dad

by J. Money on Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Showdown: Clever Dude vs. Frugal Dad
PF Blogger Showdown #9: Clever Dude vs. Frugal Dad! This might be one of my favorites as it features my long-time mentor, and now friend!, Clever Dude :) I met him at one of our happy hours during month 2 of starting this blog, and he’s steered me in the right direction ever since. I am forever grateful to that guy…even if he does like pink fruity drinks!

And on the other side today, we’ve got another well-respected blogger: Frugal Dad – who’s not only blown up the finance world these last 2 years, but who’s got to be one of the most sincere guys around. If you’ve ever worked w/ him or been on his blog, you’ll know exactly what I’m talkin’ about. Really appreciate you hangin’ with us today bro! Here we go…

Clever DudeClever Dude
3,020 Readers
Clever Dude
@cleverdude
Frugal DadFrugal Dad
10,642 Readers
Frugal Dad
@frugaldad
How long have you been blogging for?
I started in June 2006, so 3.5 years. I didn’t even know what blogging was until a friend introduced me to it. My wife said I needed a hobby, so I took up blogging. Who knew I would eventually have thousands of subscribers! I started FrugalDad.com near the end of December 2007. I wrote for about a year before that at Associated Content and other article directories before finally realizing I could publish thoughts on my own site.
Have you found any secrets to rockin’ it out?
Write about something you enjoy. If you just write to make money, you won’t have the passion to get you past the first 3 months, then the first 6 months (which is when you tend to start earning a few bucks). I still consider Clever Dude as a hobby, not a business, because the minute it becomes a business, then it becomes an obligation. Here’s 50 more tips too. Don’t be afraid to tackle controversial topics. People read blogs to learn your opinion on a variety of subjects related to your niche. If people wanted regurgitated financial news stories minus the human story they could read traditional media.
What are the first 3 sites you check in the morning?
I check my Gmail (I consolidate all my accounts into one), I check Google Reader to keep up on other PF blogs and other sites. The last is probably My Yahoo homepage for news, comics, weather, etc. As you can see, I like having everything in one place as much as possible! FrugalDad.com, to make sure it is up and running. FoxNews.com for the latest headlines. My bank account online.

Yes, I balance my bank account online every morning – it’s an obsession.

As a married guy, how do you & the fam manage your money?
While I don’t recommend this model because of the risk if something happens to me, I handle all the finances including paying bills and investments. However, that doesn’t mean the wife is out of the picture. She has even more say in purchases than I do because I recognize that she has a better sense of judgement and patience. We talk anything over that costs more than about $50, but we don’t really spend much money anymore so it doesn’t really come up often. For managing money, I use Quicken (just upgraded to Quicken 2010) and an Excel spreadsheet. I’ve gotten it all down to just a few minutes per week. My wife and I make all financial decisions together, but it hasn’t always been that way. Most of the past mistakes were made because I didn’t listen to my wife’s intuition.
Do you use a budget? If so, what format?
I use a budget, but not really the way that many people teach. My budget shows when I owe what to whom, and repeats each month, rather than just lump totals by category. I do this all in Excel so I can have full control of the layout, and it’s worked great for about 5 years, in combination with tracking and reporting from Quicken. I might give Quicken another chance to manage it for me now, but it’s not a high priority. Our personal finances are almost on cruise control now. We have really relaxed the budget since getting our spending under control. I used to track infinite categories of spending, which became tedious and was taking too much life energy. I’m old school. I have a custom Excel worksheet that I use to plan out our income and expenses, but just the larger categories. I’d rather spend time playing ball with the kids than updating elaborate budget programs.
What’s one of the EASIEST ways to save money?
The BEST way is to track where you’re spending it so you’re empowered with knowledge, but I guess the EASIEST way would be to not be afraid to ask for discounts and shop around, including after the purchase. I saved $1400 per year with one call (but not to Geico), even though I was happy with my existing insurance company. I saved hundreds recently between cable and cellphone by changing plans and asking for discounts. I consider these things “low-hanging fruits” ready to be picked. Leave home without it. Seriously, spending too much money at stores is often a crime of opportunity. Something catches your eye, but you don’t have the money so you whip out a credit card. If this sounds like you, make things easier on yourself by leaving credit cards at home, and only taking along enough cash to cover things on your shopping list.
What’s the most you’ve ever been in debt?
$113,000 in credit card, student loan and auto loan debt and $400,000 between two mortgages. Total about a HALF MILLION DOLLARS. Now we’re down to about $370,000, which is just mortgage. At our highest point (or our lowest point, I should say) we owed nearly $30,000 in combined credit cards, automobiles, student loans and other school expenses I accumulated after returning to school to finish my degree. After a couple years of sacrificing, clawing and scratching our way back to even we’re now debt free besides the house. Our family motto when it comes to debt is… “Never Again!”
Would you give up blogging for a fancy sports car?
You know I’m a car guy. It depends on the conditions. If someone gave me a used, beat up Miata, then no, but I do have a price and it wouldn’t take a Ferrari to coax me out of blogging. No way. If someone gave me a fancy sports car I’d sell it, buy myself a used pickup truck and invest the rest.
True or False: Personal finance is easy.
The fundamentals are stupidly simple (cut expenses, live frugally, earn more, manage money), but applying them to your life adds so many complications. “Finance” is logical, but “Personal” is emotional and psychological. Even an “emotional wasteland” like myself has problems like emotional spending on cars and electronics. True. The basic concepts of personal finance are easy. It’s common sense, really. Spend less than you earn and save the difference. I believe most of today’s economic problems can be blamed on making personal finances too sophisticated. It’s time to get back to the basics.
What would you do if I gave you $20k?
Give it back so you can handle your own debt. But assuming I didn’t have that option, I would donate it. If I didn’t have the option to give it away, then I would pay down our mortgage, although the wife might like a vacation overseas. Ahh, to dream… I’d probably use $5,000 to take the family to Disney World (we’ve never been) and then the mountains (the latter trip is more for me). I’d maximize Roth IRAs for my wife and me with another $10k, and I’d find a local family or two to bless with the remaining $5,000.
*BONUS* What’s smarter – Being clever or being frugal? ;)
You can be clever, but many a “clever dude” (and dudette) has gotten into financial trouble with schemes and scams. You need to be both clever and frugal, but also wise. Being wise means you’ve learned from your own and others’ mistakes and apply the lessons learned to your own life. As a frugal dad, I’d have to go with being frugal. However, cleverness and frugality are closely related. Looking at life’s challenges with a frugal mindset often leads to clever solutions as we challenge ourselves to find creative ways to save money.

There ya have it! Two influential bloggers spreading the good work with us today :) Did you enjoy it? Please let us know by voting for your fave! There’s no real “rules” here, just gotta go with the one you enjoyed the most. And as always, huge THANK YOU to Clever Dude & Frugal Dad for dropping by! I’m proud to be in the mix w/both of these classy guys.

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Previous Showdowns:
Showdown #8: Madame X vs. Generation X (Gen X wins)
Showdown #7: Liz Weston vs. Kathy Kristof (Kathy wins)
Showdown #6: Fabulously Broke vs. Krystal at Work (Krystal wins, by 1 vote!)
Showdown #5: Matt Jabs vs. Adam Baker (Jabs wins)
Showdown #4: Flexo vs. Jim Wang (Flexo wins)
Showdown #3: Lazy Man vs. Silicon Valley Blogger (SVB wins)
Showdown #2: Stephanie vs. Squawkfox (Squawkfox wins)
Showdown #1: J.D. Roth vs. Trent Hamm (J.D. wins)


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